What Are The Rules of Intestacy?

If you die without leaving a will, all of your property and belongings (referred to as your estate) will be divided according to the Rules of Intestacy. These were originally set out in the Administration of Estates Act 1925 and then amended by the Inheritance and Trustees Powers Act 2014. While the rules have been amended relatively recently (October 2014) they can be seen as harsh as they often don’t take into consideration modern family relationships.

The rules only recognise natural and adopted children for the purposes of inheritance, and they make no provision for unmarried or unregistered partners: the notion of ‘common law’ has no place in the rules of Intestacy.

The rules are essentially as follows:

If you are married (or in a civil partnership) and your estate is worth less than £250,000 when you die, your entire estate is passed automatically onto your spouse or civil partner.

If you are married (or in a civil partnership) and your estate is worth more than £250,000 and you have no children your entire estate is passed automatically onto your spouse or civil partner.

If you are married (or in a civil partnership) and your estate is worth more than £250,000 and you do have children, the first £250,000 along with any personal possessions will go to the spouse / civil partner, but the remainder of the estate will be divided in half: half will go straight to the spouse / civil partner, and the rest will be divided equally among the children.

If you are not married or in a civil partnership but you do have children then the children will inherit everything. If you had a child but that child has died before you did, any children of theirs will automatically take their share.

If you are not married, nor in a civil partnership, your surviving relations will inherit in the following order:

  • Parents
  • Brothers and Sisters or their children
  • Half-brothers or half-sisters or their children
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles or Aunts brothers and sisters of whole blood of a parent) or their children
  • Uncles and Aunts (brother and sisters of the half-blood of a parent) or their children

If you die leaving no spouse or civil partner, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins etc then your entire estate will go to the Crown – known as Bona Vacantia.

In cases where the Rules of Intestacy cause financial hardship there could be the option of making a claim under the Inheritance Act, but ultimately the best way to avoid the potential issues thrown up by the Intestacy Rules is to make sure you make a legal will before you die.

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